NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Vanderbilt's national championship in baseball has raised the bar on campus. The Commodores have a new football coach and setting their sights higher on the gridiron as well.
Linebacker Kyle Woestmann says the football team watched the Commodores clinch the College World Series in June and are inspired to make their mark in the Southeastern Conference.
"It's time for us to win a SEC championship," Woestmann said. "And people know if you're winning in the SEC, you're probably going to go to the national championship. All we've got to do is focus on one SEC game at a time and work our way through the East and see where we stand at the end of the season."
First-year coach Derek Mason already has talked about Vanderbilt's goal of winning the SEC — an idea previously laughable for a program that has never won 10 games in a single season.
He takes over a team coming off consecutive 9-4 seasons capped by bowl wins and a spot in The Associated Press' final top 25 rankings. The talent hasn't been this good or deep on this roster in decades, and the man who was defensive coordinator at Stanford has 12 starters returning, 13 if counting the punter.
Mason likes dreaming big, even though preseason predictions put Vandy near the bottom of the SEC East.
"I don't think I've ever picked on top," Mason said.
Woestmann says Mason's confidence has helped players who talked about winning the SEC yet didn't feel the previous staff thought that was possible.
"It's hard not to buy in and want to sell out for a man who's trying to take you to where you're trying to go," Woestmann said.
Here are five things to watch at Vanderbilt:
QB COMPETITION: Stephen Rivers, whose brother Philip is quarterback for the NFL's San Diego Chargers, saw a chance to start at Vanderbilt and transferred from LSU in June. Patton Robinette is back after starting three games last season. He also helped beat Georgia and Tennessee coming off the bench but wasn't asked to throw much. Mason wants to pick a starter by the opener Aug. 28 against Temple.
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